I don't know if you were involved with LAN gaming as of 5 years ago, but I have been for the last 10. Allow me to tell you about a few things:
1. Before "cyber cafes", there were these little things called LAN parties. Cyber cafes were a commercialized extension of the growing popularity of LANs, many of whom were (and still are) non-profit enterprises. If you want to go calling chicken-and-egg, let's look back to the advent of cafes: started by many from the old LAN community who decided they wanted to make more money than the rest of us. You know what? They were called greedy back then, and that charge was rightfully made given the otherwise generous culture. LAN parties were and are still cooler, despite the growing pressure (partly from competition and partly from cafes) on admins to deliver tons of free swag and prizes in addition to flawless events.
2. How is an entire business model based upon the expectation that you can freely make one purchase of someone else's product and rent it out to people day-in, day-out? How do you expect to survive as a commercialized entity? Do you see people renting movies out of their homes? Every other entertainment industry has varying levels of protections against this kind of thing, and for cyber cafes to expect to receive free handouts (AND sponsorship of all things) for creating a small industry around this model without even consulting the companies they are taking product from, they are suffering from commercial myopia.
I also have the opinion that when you step over this line that I've outlined above and expect to run a business doing this kind of thing with gaming, you forfeit your rights to cry like an abused victim when you're no longer given a free ride. Businesses have fees. It should be expected. Movie theaters and equipment rental companies don't just buy a few items discreetly from suppliers and rent them off without permission - some cyber cafes do. Big difference. This doesn't mean I'm a full Valve fanboy; in fact I'm kinda pissed at them for the CS:S multiplayer move, Steam's nags and my wariness at the potential for them to start charging for content through their online platform, but it doesn't mean I'm standing behind a cafe anytime soon.
3. I was playing CS before its first public release because I knew of Gooseman from his Navy Seals mod for Quake, which I loved. Trust me when I say that this kind of tactical/action FPSing was very fresh back then, not completely overdone like it is today. R6 and CS were essentially your slew of options, unless you count SWAT 1 (which was FMV). Therefore I can tell you that CS would have been big regardless of its true delivery vehicle - although LAN parties in general (not just cyber cafes, which I'll remind you were much less prevalent back then) certainly had an impact on its popularity. Anyway, CS was on a track to become a big mod whether or not people like me were sick of it after 6 months and a shitty community. It was just made to be big given its timing and given the types of games/mods that existed at the time.
You can probably guess my, er, joy at hearing I'd be able to play the same 10 f*king maps over and over again 5 years later after imagining just how cool it would be to play real HL2 multiplayer with physics. I like some freshness in what I do with few exceptions (like the Quake/Diablo series, in my mind ageless fun due to the frenetic action and the special place in my heart for em).
4. In conclusion, I'd ask that you consider the role of cafes not as some kind of victimized culture that Valve is trying to pick off. A chunk of people cafes truly serve, for the most part, are those lacking enough horsepower or pipe to play games just the way they want to play. Those people, I'll remind you, already have knowledge of these titles beforehand that they want to play on good machines. They're already gamers. Therefore, does that mean cyber cafes are integral to the success of building word-of-mouth among gamers and spreading gaming to the masses like some evangelical outlet? Should games makers be forever in debt to them for some kind of imagined need?
No. They may bring in casual or new gamers who may discover new titles and act as a gateway to the hardcore gaming/tourney/LAN crowd. They are not the end-all-be-all of social gaming, and they weren't even around during the Quake days when I felt the community was at its strongest and most benevolent.
Essentially, I don't think Valve should bleed cafes dry because of the precedent I believe it will set, but I also believe it's naive to think cafes can be run forever without any kind of fee to take another company's product and rent it forever. Does this mean they should have to buy 100 licenses? No. But how about a site license program? There has to be middle ground wherein cafes can run without too much hassle and developers get some amount of compensation for what is a special situation - purchase of games for a business rental purpose.
This comment was edited on Nov 30, 19:33.